More shame…Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal

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How many times have I seen the above image and never knew what it was from. How shameful is that?

The recent sale on Criterion titles at Barnes & Noble has drastically changed my list of shame. So many titles both favorites and films I’ve never seen. I personally have never seen any films directed by Ingmar Bergman. I know of his films and reputation, yet nothing seemed to interest me. Until I was on the Criterion website and watched the trailer for The Seventh Seal. A film that gives the appearance of a period drama, but in fact is a live action allegory for the man who loses faith.

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Antonius Block (played by Max Von Sydow) is a knight who has just returned from battle in the Crusades. After leaving for war strong in his faith, fighting for God, Block is wavering in his faith. He wants knowledge that God exists and is listening to him. While on a beach with his squire Block sees Death standing before him ready to claim his life. Block decides to challenge Death to a game of chess in order to prolong his life.

I loved this film from start to finish. I am not much of an Art House cinema guy. I am definitely much more Hollywood in my viewing. But what I loved about this was how Hollywood it felt even though it’s a Swedish film. High production values also shine for me as this is one beautifully shot picture. In particular the scene of Block and Death sitting down to begin their game.

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I also love how although this film is meant to be much more than what we see on the screen and what the actual story is about, it’s themes stand out to me without being explicitly stated or preached. Block has become disillusioned. He wants to know if his faith had meaning, yet when Death comes for him, he wants to stall in order to try to fulfill something meaningful in his life. These are the things that as Christian should want to do. Find ways of service to others. This leads me to think that by the end of the film, Block regains what he thought he lost.

The Seventh Seal is a brilliant film that I would recommend to anyone. Cinephile or not. Great technical work, solid acting, and easy to identify themes. I once was ashamed, but now no more.

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Back in the game…with The Most Dangerous Game

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I know, I know. I’ve been out for a while. Since March I believe.

At this very moment across the country, various Barnes and Noble locations are having a sale on Criterion Collection titles. If you are unfamiliar, The Criterion Collection is a distribution group that collects classic and contemporary films and markets them to cinephiles moreso than the general public. Since Criterion releases are usually higher priced than regular films, I use this opportunity to collect as many as I can during the sale.

One gem I managed to pick up was “The Most Dangerous Game.” The film was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and Irving Pichel and produced by Merian C. Cooper. Cooper and Schoedsack would soon move on after this film to create the landmark adventure film “King Kong.” In fact the sets of this film were used in “King Kong.” The movie stars Joel McCrea and Fay Wray as two people who are shipwrecked on an island owned by Zaroff, played by Leslie Banks. Zaroff is a man who hunts other humans for sport, hence the most dangerous game. McCrea’s character, Bob Rainsford is also a big game hunter and is selected to provide ample challenge.

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I must say for a film that’s only 67 minutes long, it certainly does not waste any time. There’s basically no exposition and I still feel I know enough about the characters we should be focused on. Also with this being a Pre-Code film, the violence feels a little more tangible.

I also did not expect to be drawn in with the level of suspense that this movie has. Once the hunt begins you feel part of the battle of with between the two hunters and how a calm head really is the greatest weapon you can possess in a situation like that. I certainly hope the short story that this film is based off of by Richard Connell is even more suspensful.

If you have the chance to watch this great adventure film, it reall is a gem and I would highly reccomend it. “The Most Dangerous Game” is currently available on Criterion Collection DVD, Hulu Plus and also on YouTube. This is a great example of classic Hollywood filmmaking.

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Due to the sale, my list may most likely have some major changes coming soon. Stay Tuned. I won’t be gone as long again,